Fi­nance chief ar­rested as po­lice probe black hole in Patis­serie Va­lerie’s books

RE­TAIL: Po­lice quiz man, 44, ‘on sus­pi­cion of fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion’

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - KA­LY­EENA MAKO­RTOFF

The sus­pended fi­nance chief of Patis­serie Va­lerie has been ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of fraud.

It comes just days af­ter the cafe chain said it had dis­cov­ered a ma­jor black hole in its ac­counts.

The com­pany’s par­ent firm, Patis­serie Hold­ings, said in a stock mar­ket an­nounce­ment that Chris Marsh, who was sus­pended from his role ear­lier this week, has since been re­leased.

Hert­ford­shire Po­lice said: “A 44-yearold man from St Al­bans has been ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of fraud by false rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

“He has been re­leased un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The probe is be­ing led by the Se­ri­ous Fraud Of­fice (SFO).

Patis­serie Hold­ings said on Wed­nes­day that it has been no­ti­fied of “sig­nif­i­cant, and po­ten­tially fraud­u­lent, ac­count­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and there­fore a po­ten­tial ma­te­rial mis-state­ment of the com­pany’s ac­counts”.

This sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected the com­pany’s cash po­si­tion, with the firm say­ing it could lead to a “ma­te­rial change” in its over­all fi­nan­cial po­si­tion.

Mr Marsh was later sus­pended from his role and ac­coun­tancy gi­ant PwC drafted in to look through the com­pany’s books.

To com­pound its trou­bles, Patis­serie Hold­ings has also re­ceived a wind­ing-up pe­ti­tion for its prin­ci­pal trad­ing unit Stonebeach, with a hear­ing now sched­uled for Oc­to­ber 31.

It re­lates to £1.14 mil­lion owed to HMRC.

The cake chain has now warned that it will cease trad­ing with­out an “im­me­di­ate” cash in­jec­tion.

The firm could be forced to ap­point ad­min­is­tra­tors as early as pos­si­ble.

Emer­gency fundrais­ing talks over­seen by ad­vis­ers to Patis­serie Hold­ings were con­tin­u­ing. Other op­tions on the ta­ble in­clude a loan or a rights is­sue.

Chair­man Luke John­son is said to be con­sid­er­ing step­ping in with funds that could help save the busi­ness.

Mr John­son, a se­rial en­tre­pre­neur, is the largest share­holder in Patis­serie Hold­ings with a 37% stake.

If a buyer for the group does emerge, any pur­chase is likely be con­ducted via a pre-pack ad­min­is­tra­tion process, where a new owner is able to shed oner­ous li­a­bil­i­ties.

PwC, which is work­ing with the firm on its fi­nan­cial po­si­tion, is the most likely to carry out the in­sol­vency, but sev­eral other cor­po­rate un­der­tak­ers are also thought to be wait­ing in the wings.

Patis­serie Va­lerie trades from more than 200 stores and also has a part­ner­ship with Sains­bury’s, with branded coun­ters in the su­per­mar­ket.

Pic­ture: Getty.

Patis­serie Va­lerie trades from more than 200 stores, in­clud­ing one in Dundee, and also has a part­ner­ship with Sains­bury’s.

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